The Massia Cultural Breakdown Essay

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The Maasai Cultural Breakdown Paper
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people Proverbs 14:34. This is a quote from a web site (, that defines parallels to the culture of the Maasai. The Maasai Culture is from Southern Kenya. The culture is very family based, with many families being quite large. The Maasai own a total land area of 160,000 kilometers ( ). Some of the physical characteristics include, but are not limited to, tall height, long pierced earlobes, and thin bodies. The Maasai have a saying for how they believe it takes one day to destroy a house but to build a new one will take months, perhaps years. If we destroy our way of life to construct a new one, it will take thousands of years (

The Maasai culture has been around since the latter part of the first millennium ( They generally stay in the same area, unless they need to hunt the lion. Only when they are forced out by Westeners or animals will they abondon their homeplace.
When looking at the World View it is important to remember it is timeless and must represent a fundamental set of assumptions, thoughts and options; how they see the Universe. The World View categories are:
1.Supreme being: Above all, beyond all, Culture. One and only one.

2.Super natural forces: exist on spiritual plan
3.Human beings: leader of the tribe
4.Nature: storms, grass, moon, and stars
5.Animals: Lions, cattle,
6.Inanimate: nonliving objects, a special rock.
Now we will look at how the Maasai rank and define these categories based on Richard Porters research of their World Veiw (Samovar, Porter 2000, p. 90-98).

2.Supreme Being:
3.Human beings:
6.Super natural forces:
The Maasai tribe live in the out-of-doors, literally- so the climate is extremely important. Drought, can bring about extinction. It would be more difficult to draw water. Women would be required to walk long distances-both exhausting and dangerous to fill their gourds. It could kill their cattle resulting in no milk or blood for their sustenance.

This tribe has one god. The Maasai view their god from two different perspectives. Engai Narok is seen through the thunder and the rains. While the other god, Engai Nonyokie, is for lightning.

The elders are most respected in the tribe. They have a person that is their king. Every day all tribe members will awake, and go to see the leader. He will then distribute jobs that need to get done. The people are not able to start the day without seeing the king; otherwise the workers could end up doing jobs that do not need to be accomplished. This would make the king mad.

The Maasai tribe is very dependent on animals. Without the lion, this tribe would not be able to survive. They depend on the skins for shoes and other tribal wear. The hunters wear the mane as a sign of dignity and skill. The tail of the lion is braided by women and then passed on to the hunters, to wear on special occasions ( Also, the Maasai tribe is not a cattle-eating culture, but rather use the cattle for many other things. They use it to show the wealth of a tribe; they also use it to provide milk to the tribe. In order for the culture to survive, they will mix the goat milk with the cattles blood. This will give the people a great deal of energy and vitamins and vital components necessary to survive.

The last worldview that they consider important is the inanimate. Jewelry, specifically, is most important. The older the women get, the more jewelry they will wear, and the higher respected they will be. Or if their husbands are master hunters, the women will wear more jewelry. They consider it very beautiful to have a long ear lobe, so they will place objects of great size in their ear, in an attempt to lengthen the ear lobe.
It should be noted finally, that no information was found in this category. It can be assumed that Super Natural Forces are not part of the Maasia World View and not important to their culture.
Having set forth and supported the rank ordering of Maasai World View, I will now examine the interpersonal communication structure among the Maasai. The Maasai language is categorized in the Chari-Nile family ( ). Having no definite starting date, the Maasia culture has been telling stories that originated in the early 1800s.The Maasai culture has been perpetual by word of mouth. It has an oral tradition. Its communication patterns are not written down. The Maasai have no written down history.
The Maasai culture has always been one of oral tradition in which stories and teachings have been passed down through the generations by word of mouth and not by written words (Samovar, Porter 2000, p. 91,92).The Maasai stories have been analyzed since the late 1800s ( Even with other groups writing the stories down, the Maasai are primarily an oral communication based tribe. The Maasai culture is based highly on memory. The stories arent written down. The older you get, the more respect you have because of all the information you store (Samovar, Porter 2000, p. 91,92).

As soon as the children are born, the Maasai people will begin to tell them stories, so the knowledge will start to grow. This is mainly to teach the kids who they should have relationships with, and who not to have relationships with (Samovar, Porter 2000, p. 90). The memories and the stories are used to teach the kids about relationships with the World View particularly Nature, since that is the most important in the Maasai culture. The Maasai are a high context culture. They understand the context in which the story is told. The storyteller assumes that everyone that is listening will have already heard the other stories necessary to understand stories later told. The knowledge is gained from the past. This is another reason why older people of the tribe tell stories. It is assumed that the young will never discover anything important, for knowledge is gained from the past. The Maasai have been sharing their stories with other tribe members since before 1890 (

Maasai are frequently referred to as true Africans, because of their purity. This is something they take a great deal of pride in (Samovar, Porter 2000, p.90-98). This section will inspect the oral tradition of the Maasai as well as Maasai communication relative to time and space, education, family and strangers. The purity is observed when tribe members exchange stories.
When no stories are written, it is vital that the story teller not exaggerate, otherwise peoples word would be worth nothing. The Maasai culture doesnt write any of the history down, but rather depend on the elders of the tribe to pass the stories down from generation to generation. If people are exaggerating the stories, or changing the stories then the listeners would receive and pass down the wrong interpretation.
When looking at space, the Maasai have a saying, space is like time- there is always enough of it (Samovar, Porter, p. 98). Unlike Westerners, space is not important in communications. Whereas we Westerners need more space between each other in communication to achieve a comfort level, the Maasai do not consider space as important. ). This can be seen when the people pile into a bus that is designed to hold fifteen, but is then overly stuffed to hold thirty. They have no problem sharing space-land is shared by all space is everybodys. Further more, the Maasai, are never in a hurry. They know that it will get done. This teaches the people to remain patient, and calm (Samovar, Porter 2000, p. 97
No one in the Maasai culture owns land. Everyone has the right to use the land. This is because the culture doesnt require a great deal of private space, unlike western tradition. However, with so much Western tradition invading the Maasai land, the different clans have began to mark territory. Generally everyone respects this.
Other unique communication patterns have been observed among the Maasai within their family relations. Some of the more common interactions with family are used to receive a better understanding of the Maasai ( ).

Maasai society Women look after the young children, milk the cattle, repair the huts, collect fire-wood, prepare the food and may need to travel many miles to fetch water. Warriors eventually go through the Eunoto ceremony leading to marriage when they can take several wives and have children (the men are allowed to have relationships with any circumcised women of their age group); they also begin to acquire cattle. Finally they become respected elders. Elders look to Laibon (spiritual leaders, perhaps one per clan) for advice and expect them to provide rain and good grazing. Mt Kenya’s three peaks (Batian, Nelion and Lenana) are named after three legendary Laibon.
Because of this family structure, the Maasai have developed systems and patterns of communicating with other members in the family. Grandparents will teach the kids a great deal instead of schools. This is because of the tribe teachings: dont be an individual, be a group (Samovar, Porter 2000, p. 93).
Even though your parents are the ones who gave you life, the grandparents are the ones who are able to make the final decision. The older you are, the more respect you will receive. The decisions they make are final. Age is the deciding factor when determining who has the ability to make a decision (Samovar, Porter 2000, p. 93).
In Conclusion, the Maasai are from Southern Kenya and are a family based culture. Although they hold a World View different from ours they are very respectful of each other and their surroundings. It is important for us as Westerners to be both informal and respectful of this tribe for they have survived for over 100 years with only oral traditions, which demonstrate the strength and commitment to their culture.
Cheeseman, T (2002). Conservation and the Maasia in Kenya. Tradeoff or Lost Mutualism? Retrieved on April 20th, 2002, from the World Wide Web: (
Hamisi, K (2002). Maasai Rituals and Ceremonies. Retrieved on April 22nd, 2002, from the World Wide Web:
Hamisi, K (2002). The Practice of Lion Hunting. Retrieved on April 23rd, 2002, from the World Wide Web:

Martin M (2002). Society-MASAI. Retrieved on April 24th, 2002, from the World Wide Web:
Samovar, L. R., Porter, (2000). Intercultural Communication A Reader, (9th ed.). Wadsworth Publishing Company
Unknown Author, (2002). Maasai Culture. Retrieved on April 24th, 2002, from the World Wide Web:
Youngman, J. (2002). The Maasai. Retrieved on April 25th, 2002, from the World Wide Web: (

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